Got a bun in the oven?

No I’m not expecting, but I have a few close friends that are, so I wanted to share some information I learned through my coursework at Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN).

There is so much pregnancy information out there, and I can’t even begin to identify what the best, better or perfect book, author, or advice is. But, I can tell you that I really enjoyed what I learned from Nina Planck, food writer and farmer’s market entrepreneur. During one of my course modules, Nina, spoke for a few minutes about foods for pregnancy. I made sure to take good notes, as I figured they might come in handy at some point, and here we are!

My class notes are here, but of course these are only a summary. For far more details, I recommend reading her book, Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating For Two, and Baby’s First Foods. The fundamental premise of the book is sound: pregnant women’s diet should consist of mainly whole, unprocessed food. In fact, I think we can all agree that replacing the words “pregnant women” with any other word that describes the human species (and perhaps other species) would also hold true here.

If you want to get to know Nina a bit better, learn more about her food philosophy, and hear some of her advice and insights on food and fertility you can watch this video or read the transcript (it’s included on the site). Watch from minute 30:17 to 38:00 for pregnancy specific information.

Interestingly (although not surprising), while I was doing some research on what and how to eat while pregnant, I found a lot of the recommendations are the same as those provided for healthy eating. These include (and this is by no means comprehensive):

  • Drink plenty of fluids, primarily water
  • Incorporate ginger in the diet to subdue nausea and ease digestion
  • Drink 30 minutes before and/or after eating, as opposed to with food
  • Eat small meals throughout the day
  • Stick to vegetables, fruits and lean meats
  • Get plenty of omega-3s
  • Don’t over drink or overeat
  • Minimize heavy, greasy foods
  • Trust your stomach; not what others tell you works for them, as you may find certain habits work well for you & that you crave something that your body (and in this case, your baby) needs

And I’m out,

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Do You Chew Your Food?

Is there a point to chewing our food? Is it important? Yes and yes. There’s a reason we have teeth people.

What happens when you chew?

Let’s talk about what happens when you don’t chew. First, it puts a lot of stress on your digestive system and decreases your energy. This is because your body is overwhelmed with the process of breaking down the large food particles that you didn’t breakdown in your mouth. When you don’t chew, your intestines cannot properly absorb nutrients form the food particles as they pass through. I like how Purdue University Professor of food and nutrition Dr. Richard Mattes explains it (based on a his recent study):

Particle size [affects the] bioaccessibility of the energy of the food that is being consumed. The more you chew, the less is lost and more is retained in the body.”

Second, it prevents your saliva from doing its job. What do I mean by that? Well, believe it or not saliva isn’t simply there to increase your chances of drooling when you sleep. Saliva contains digestive enzymes that are only released when you chew! No chew = no release of digestive enzymes. One of these enzymes is called pytalin, and it is the enyzme that helps us digest grains and carbohydrates. Another is called lingual lipase, and this enzyme helps break down fats.

Lastly, when we don’t chew, we can forget to appreciate and taste the food we are eating. Chewing forces us to slow down. Many of us live busy, active, on-the-go lifestyles, and scarf down our food without thinking. Often we take down the food so we can rush off to the next thing in our day. There’s hardly any time to eat, and now we have to chew?! But, it shouldn’t be that way, and we should take time to enjoy and taste our food. When we bite and swallow we stop our body from thinking. When we chew there is a connection between the stomach and head, creating a more mindful, slow, and satiating food eating experience.

How many times should you chew?

So there isn’t an exact formula or number of times. It is really about making sure the food is paste-like or pureed. If you can still feel pieces of food, you should chew a little more. It also depends on the food itself. For example, you would chew chicken more than lettuce, and lettuce more than yogurt. If I am counting I usually start with 20, and go from there. Sometimes I need up to 50 chews! It is also not uncommon for one to require up to 60 + chews to properly breakdown the food. Once you start to think more about chewing and slowing down when you eat, you will find the process becomes more natural and intuitive. And you get the added bonus of better digestion, feeling full sooner, and more easily managing your portions.

Let’s recap…Why is chewing important and how can one benefit from the act of chewing?

  1. You can absorb more nutrients and retain energy levels
  2. Your saliva can do its job and help you breakdown the food properly so you can digest more easily
  3. You take longer to eat, which can help some to control their portion sizes, and maintain a healthy weight
  4. You strengthen your teeth and prevent plaque build up and tooth decay
  5. You minimize the amount of bacteria lingering in your intestines, which helps prevent gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping, and other digestive problem

Think about chewing at your next meal. Why not reap the benefits? It’s free. The only cost is slowing down and taking/making more time to enjoy your meal…and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

And I’m out,
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Cooking with Kasha: Move Over Quinoa, You’ve Got a Competitor

Quinoa often gets all the attention for being gluten-free, high in protein and vegetarian friendly; but, there are many other grains out there that provide no gluten, high plant-based protein, and optimal health benefits. Kasha is one of them. I learned about Kasha recently, and decided to try it for dinner the other night. Basically, I LOVED it – form the texture and taste to the way it set in my body. I couldn’t stop eating it! What was even better is that I didn’t feel heavy, stuffed, or tired. I felt light, satiated, and energetic.

So what is Kasha? Kasha is the name for buckwheat that has been roasted to a deep amber color. In fact, you can chew and eat Kasha without cooking it. It actually taste really good! It has a nutty, smoky, burnt flavor. The cooked version is fluffier, but has the same nutty, smoky, burnt taste to it. Both versions are good. I think it depends on the type of meal you want, your texture preference, and perhaps the mood you are in.

Kasha is one of the oldest traditional foods of Russia. Despite its name, buckwheat is not actually a member of the wheat family, but rather a relative of rhubarb. Of all the grains, buckwheat has the longest transit time in the digestive tract and is the most filling. It can be eaten as a hot breakfast cereal, a side dish, or a grain entrée mixed with vegetables.

A few characteristics and health benefits of Kasha include:

  • Stabilizes blood sugar, minimizing stress-related cravings due to spikes in the stress hormone cortisol, while improving energy, mood, memory and overall hormone balance
  • Gluten-free
  • Builds blood; neutralizes toxic acidic waste
  • Benefits circulation
  • Contains the flavonoid rutin, which protects against disease by strengthening capillaries and preventing blood clotting.
  • Contains high levels of magnesium, which helps lower blood pressure
  • Strengthens the kidneys
  • High proportion of all eight amino acids, especially lysine
  • Rich in vitamin E and B-complex vitamins

How do you cook Kasha?

It is super easy and fast. First, you must boil the water. This is very important! No Kasha can enter that pot until the water has already come to a boil. Got it? Good. Then bring the water down to a simmer, slowly pour the Kasha in to the hot water, and let it cook for about 20 minutes. That’s it! Then, serve, eat and enjoy.

Do not add Kasha to cold water, as it will not cook properly. The Kasha to water ration is 1 cup Kasha to 2 cups boiling water. You can make more of course, but 1 cup is a good amount for 4 people. See below for a basic Kasha recipe. You can definitely do more with Kasha, like create a pilaf, or just get creative and add veggies and spices you like. I may try adding diced onion, parsley, kale, and tomatoes and create what I will call a Kasha Salsa Salad.

Basic Kasha Recipe:

Prep Time: 5 minutes. Cook Time: 20 minutes. Yield: 4 servings. Ingredients: 1 cup kasha, 2 cups water, pinch of sea salt. Directions: (1) Bring water to a boil first (2) Slowly add kasha and punch of sea salt (3) Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes (4) Fluff with fork and serve.

Now get out there, try some Kasha, and create your own unique Kasha cuisine.

And I’m out,
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Two Michaels: Pollen & Moss on Food in America

Two Michaels, two very interesting interviews, and some thoughts from yours truly. Watch when you have time. I will point out my favorite piece of each video until you are able to watch these. You’re welcome.

“Whoever is president after Obamacare is in place, and the government is on the hook for a lot more of our healthcare costs, will discover that the best way to reduce the amount of money we are spending on healthcare (currently in the 3.5 trillion range) is through DIET. About 75% of these costs treat PREVENTABLE CHRONIC DISEASES, most of which are LINKED TO DIET. The best way TO TAKE CONTROL OF COSTS is to CHANGE THE WAY WE EAT. The cost of obesity is in the hundreds of billions, as is type 2 diabetes, these are huge numbers, and it is ALL PREVENTABLE; it is ALL A MATTER OF THE FOOD SYSTEM. We have a government who is subsidizing both sides in the war on obesity and type 2 diabetes. We are subsidizing the worst possible foods in the marketplace, and then we are subsidizing the healthcare costs to deal with that problem.” – Michael Pollen Interview (starts around minute 6)

*Note: this interview was published in 2013, so the numbers/statistics have changed, but sadly they have only gotten higher/worse. I updated the cost of healthcare.

My thoughts: Sorry for all of the uppercase text, but I found it exciting and satisfying to hear him speak about how most of this essentially relies upon food and diet. Sounds so simple, but unfortunately it is complex. Lack of awareness, access, and availability (the 3 As) make it quite challenging to eat right. To add, our environment, our psychology, and our DNA all play a role in the complexity of it all. If eating properly is one solution, the bigger problem is changing people’s dietary behaviors. We’ve got to get smarter and more educated on what to eat, and what to eat for each of our individual bodies and selves. Rest assured that I (as well as many others) am working on tackling that problem, but it is going to take some time. Bear with me.

“Starting in the 80s it became acceptable, socially acceptable to eat anything, anywhere, anytime…business meeting, walking down the street, subways, buses, etc. This coincided with the obesity epidemic. I think what it led to is mindless eating. Hand to mouth, not paying attention. Opposite of what my mom encouraged me to do… “Michael chew your food, slow down.” There is science behind that because it takes time for your brain to catch up with your chewing, and with your stomach. We need to go back to mindful eating and paying more attention; this will help people take control of what they eat.” – Michael Moss interview (starts around minute 23)

My thoughts: It truly has become socially acceptable to eat whatever, whenever. And, I find it interesting that it coincides with the onset of the obesity epidemic. Notice how fast-paced, demanding, and competitive our work and life have become. How many times have you found yourself doing way more than you think is humanely possible? Just because it is “possible” doesn’t mean it is something we as humans should be doing. Hence the increasing rates of such things as stress, anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, and burnout. We created a way of working and living that make it socially unacceptable to use eating or “mindful eating” as a valid reason or excuse for not getting work done. Next time you write out your to-do list, make sure to add “eat” to the list, allocate time for it, and prioritize it. Let’s make mindful eating a socially acceptable norm again.

Speaking of social norms, I leave you with something I was thinking about the other day.

Why do people take action after hearing or seeing someone else take action? Often, I will do or say something, but others seem skeptical or unsure until another person says or does something similar. Well, it has to do with social norms. Social psychologists have found that the greatest predictor of someone copying a behavior is seeing someone else do it (i.e., Monkey See, Monkey Do). The same holds true for what we hear. If we hear one person say something, and then another person, it increases the likelihood that we will believe and act on what we heard.

Now, as multiple people start to say or do the same thing, a ripple effect occurs. The not so believable idea or action becomes logical, acceptable, and common practice. In other words, it becomes a social norm that more and more people consciously or unconsciously want and start to do. Maybe this is why every time I stand up in the office or eat something healthy, I quickly see others pick up on those behaviors, and shortly thereafter more people start to follow suite.

I think we can all be role models when it comes to healthy habits. Think about something healthy you like to do (e.g., walking meetings, snacking on veggies or herbal tea in the afternoon, stepping outside to breathe or stretch for a few minutes, etc.), do it around others, and see what happens…I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the impact you can have.

And I’m out,
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More on fats: Can good fats prevent brain damage?

Be sure to read my other post either before or after reading this one please!

Here are two interesting clips from the Dr. Oz show: Clip 1 Clip 2

I absolutely love this show, but sometimes it does drive me a little nuts how quickly people grab on to his every word without considering their own personal preferences and needs. Again, being fit is about finding what works best for you, not necessarily what works for others. I digress…in this episode Dr. Oz speak to Dr. Perlmutter about new controversial research regarding carbohydrates. He argues that you can control your genes and prevent Alzheimer’s by changing the way you eat. How? By cutting carbs and loading up on healthy fats. Some of what he says sounds a bit drastic, unless you are perhaps at high risk for Alzheimer’s. I don’t recommend people eliminate carbs, but I do think it is important to understand that certain fats are our friend, and people should not fear them, as long as they are AWARE of what fats they should and should not be eating.

Good and Bad Fats

And I’m out,
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My undergraduate personal essay…not much has changed

I was looking through old files on my computer the other day, and came across one of my application essays for undergrad. Turns out my mission and passion for healthy eating isn’t very new. Honestly, I completely forgot about writing this, and am slightly embarrassed that I never quite got around to accomplishing the goals and plans I highlighted in this essay, but I guess it’s better late than never? This was written about seven years ago…

Almost every day I turn on the television to hear about the newest diet secret or most recent study about anorexia or obesity. I became interested in this subject a few years ago when a close friend of mine wanted to lose a few pounds, but unfortunately succumbed to anorexia. I began researching topics related to eating disorders, health, and nutrition in my free time. The most interesting thing I discovered was how many people are unaware of the short and long term health effects associated with the foods they eat. Many people are eating the wrong foods or given false information about what healthy eating really entails.

I decided to put together my research and love for food to create a business targeted towards educating the public about healthy eating and providing them with a variety of nutritional options. This year I was approached several times by my peers for dietary advice. Their avid interest and curiosity surprised me, so I collected facts, added my thoughts, and accumulated everything into a journal. Eventually, I would like to publish this information to help spread knowledge and awareness.

As a college student I have successfully avoided gaining excess weight or the dreaded “freshman fifteen.” Maintaining a healthy diet was not a challenge for me because I am aware of which foods are nutritious and which are not. It is easy to make smart food choices once you know the facts, but for many this lack of knowledge is the problem. This issue influenced me to open a restaurant that not only offers various healthy meal options, but also educates the customers. The menu would show the customer health benefits and interesting nutrition facts about the meal they order. Additionally, I would implement the same concept in cafeterias across elementary schools and colleges to influence children and young adults to acquire healthy food habits.

I enjoy experimenting with original, innovative ways to cook my meals in what I call the “healthy way.” I am always looking for a challenge, so in my house we have created a weekly cooking challenge. My friends choose a meal, snack, or dessert they are craving, and I recreate it the “healthy way.” One of my favorite substitutes when baking is using nonfat yogurt instead of oil. I plan to create a website in which users submit a food and learn how to prepare the meal using healthy alternatives.

I shared my plan with a co-worker, and currently we are putting together marketing tactics and strategies to help turn my ideas into a reality. I believe this school will provide me with the tools and business skills needed to implement my ideas, and help change the way people eat today.

And I’m out,
Peace sign